Lonely Planet Writer

New direction for Disney: European river cruising for families

Beginning in 2016, Adventures by Disney, the high-end guided group vacations brand founded by Disney in 2005, will partner with AmaWaterways, a river cruise company, on a slate of family-themed cruises around Europe.

River cruiser, Swiss Sapphire in the Netherlands
River cruiser, Swiss Sapphire in the Netherlands Image by Roderick Elme / CC BY 2.0

The entry of a family travel brand into river cruising is unusual, given that the average age of a river cruise passenger is typically ages 55 and above.

AmaWaterways is christening a new ship for the Disney-run trips with cabins that can hold up to five people. That’s rare for river cruise ships, which are typically designed to only hold couples. The on-board restaurant will have a children’s’ menu, and there will be evening activities like kid-appropriate movie nights.

Visitors shouldn’t expect costumed characters from Disney animated films on these trips. But the cruises will feature the family friendly and quality-control aspects that are associated with the brand.

The eight-day cruises will be on the Danube river between Budapest, Hungary and Vilshofen, Germany, on July 7, 14, 21 and 28, and Dec. 22, 2016. More time will be spent in port than on the typical river cruise, with guided activities including watching a live falconry show at Hohenwerfen Castle in Passau and visiting the film locations for the “The Sound of Music” in Salzburg. Prices start at $4,100 per person for adults, $3,900 per person for children.

Disney isn’t alone in championing family friendly cruises. Another line already in service is CroisiEurope , with routes visiting Croatia, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Children up to 16 years of age sail free.

Since 2013, Uniworld has had family-designated sailings in which it transforms one stateroom into a children’s entertainment room with video games and other activities. These itineraries are also designed with tours and activities on land that aim to appeal to multi-generational families.

River cruising has been booming for all ages. Since 2009, the number of berths on ships as doubled, and passenger growth has increased 25% a year on average, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.